4 years ago, I was faced with the difficult challenge of determining how to balance work and family, leading to many lessons for my family and me. I was ecstatic to be pregnant with my first child, but with a busy 60-hour work week, I was afraid that I would be forced to choose between continuing my engaging career in Organizational Change Management and being fully present in the life of my daughter on the way.
This decision was further complicated by the clash of values I experienced when coming to the U.S. as a native to the U.K., where employers are required to provide up to a full year of maternity leave.
I was torn…
Do I go back to my company after twelve weeks of leave? Six?
Do I quit my position altogether?
Are these my only options?
Here is my advice.
1. Have an open mind when weighing your career possibilities
My first course of action was to weigh all of my options thoroughly, something I have advised my clients to do countless times while helping them plan for workplace change.
One major piece of advice I want to share is that you likely have more options than you think. Thinking outside the box is key here. When I first began contemplating, my thoughts defaulted to:
Will I continue to work full-time at this company, or will I quit to become a full-time mom?
However, the more I thought about my situation, the more I quickly realized that there were far more possible routes I could take. I found that it’s not a bad idea to begin by jotting down any and all ideas that come to mind, no matter how improbable or unconventional they may seem.
Someone in my position could (along with countless other options):
Return to the company, working in the same position with the same hours
Return to the company and work part-time or as a contractor
Leave the company and work somewhere else that would demand less of my time and energy
Leave her position to become a full-time mom
Start a new business altogether
Then, you can begin to narrow things down by reviewing them one-by-one to determine the best course of action.
Although motherhood was and is a major priority for me, I quickly dismissed the option of leaving my work altogether. I would miss the excitement, collaboration, and mental stimulation of my work that I didn’t seem to get from days of solely caring for my daughter (as crucial and enjoyable as this is).
Something that also created options for me was my openness to daycare facilities and all they have to offer. My husband and I believed that as part of becoming a well-rounded individual, it was imperative that our daughter began to socialize with many others from an early age, which brings me to my next point.
2. Consider combinations of childcare assistance
While daycare might not be the best option for everyone, it has made a world of difference for me as a mother and professional, as well as for my daughter.
I found that a combination of having a part-time nanny at home, the help of family and friends, and of course, enjoying one-on-one time with my daughter helped me strike the perfect balance sought by many working moms.
My advice is to be open to exploring a combination of several childcare resources and tweak the ratios as you see fit.
As for my career path, I ended up returning to work for my employer, but this time as a contractor. This offered me the flexibility I needed to spend plenty of time with my family, and when things got especially busy with large projects and travel, I had people I could turn to for help with caring for my daughter without feeling torn.
Developing a network of childcare support — parents, in-laws, friends, daycares, nannies, babysitters, etc. — is essential for working moms.
When my daughter turned one, my husband and I decided it would be very important for her to socialize more with other people outside of this network. We placed her in daycare part-time.
It was at this point that I worked closely on a large project with a coworker of mine that led to my most major career leap to date — founding a company and building it from scratch.
3. Be 100% present as a mom and as an entrepreneur
Founding HiView Solutions alongside my colleague Miles was exactly the change I didn’t know I needed, giving me absolute agency over my time management and allowing me to be my own boss.
Although I work remotely, I ensure that my time with my daughter is well-spent as I rarely allow her to see me working.
This may seem a bit extreme, but it has been a fantastic rule of thumb for me to ensure that in every moment I spend either working or spending time with my daughter, I am 100% present.
Having a husband who is also a consultant and at times away from home Monday through Thursday, it is crucial to ensure my daughter knows she’s never a second choice nor a burden.
4. Confront your “mom guilt”
I often hear about the guilt felt by mothers who struggle to balance their time spent focused on their children and career.
While I can understand where this comes from, I have been fortunate to not experience this feeling too much because I am confident that the childcare assistance I receive makes me a better mom.
I would advise moms who are grappling with this decision to consider whether the same could be true of them. And of course, do not forget that your happiness and fulfillment matters, and also can in turn affect your ability to be the best for your family.
5. Learn to manage your time well
The type of business my partner and I have built is one that prioritizes people-centeredness and attention to detail, but that still allows me to budget my time in a way that works for me.
Time management and job flexibility are key to success as a working mom.
I will add that I likely would not be able to enjoy this level of agency had I not made the leap to become an entrepreneur. My business partner’s understanding of my family life has helped me become the best wife and mother I can be while still thoroughly tending to my other “baby” — our company.
I have built a role for myself which I enjoy so much that even now at 10 months pregnant with my second child, I am still happy to continue to put in work to keep helping my company thrive and grow. I hope my story and advice can help others find this same fulfillment.
The bottom line is that you can create the reality you seek as long as everything you do aligns with that goal. The work-family balance that you want is achievable, and I am an example of that.
Narjit Patel grew up in the small town of Coseley in England and now resides in Orlando, Florida. She is a mother of two and the co-founder and Head of Professional Services at HiView Solutions, a growing technical consulting company and Google Cloud Premier Partner.